Archive for the ‘women’ Category


Loujain al-Hathloul released today

It is good to report that the Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison in Saudi today (10 February 2021).  Amnesty and other human rights groups have campaigned on her behalf for some time following her arrest, imprisonment, including time spent in solitary confinement.  She alleges being tortured in prison which included the use of electric shocks, flogging as well as being sexually assaulted.  These allegations are entirely believable since torture is routinely practised in the kingdom.

Loujain was one of the campaigners arguing for allowing women to drive, which they now can do, but this did not absolve her from arrest.  Her sentence has been suspended and she is not allowed to talk about her time in prison or to leave Saudi.  If she does so, she faces being rearrested.

Two events might have combined to achieve this result.  A concerted campaign by human rights campaign groups to secure her release has led to continuous bad publicity for the kingdom and for Mohammed bin Salman.  The arrival of President Joe Biden who is noticeably cooler towards the kingdom and has already suspended arms sales is likely to have been a factor.  However, Grant Liberty is among those arguing that pressure must continue to secure other releases of people held in prisons after spurious trials.  They point out that the country still carries out arbitrary arrests; people are tortured; there are many executions; children are treated as adults by the courts; women’s rights are ignored; there is no free speech and human rights organisations are banned in the country.

Sources: Grant Liberty, al Jazeera, the Guardian


The human rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, faces a lengthy jail term in Saudi Arabia for advocating the right of women to drive a car and for campaigning for the end of the male guardianship system.

In 2018, she was abducted and arrested for defying the ban on women driving and for her campaigning against the male guardianship system.  She was held for many months incommunicado, and in prison was beaten, sexually assaulted, tortured with electric shocks and waterboarded.  Human rights groups, including Amnesty, and the UN Human Rights Committee, have urged for her to be released.

The latest news is that at a hearing in a terrorism court, the judge said the sentence would be announced on Monday.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman claimed when he first assumed power, that he would reform the justice system in that country.  There has been little sign of that since with arrests of opponents, routine use of torture, harsh crackdowns on anyone opposing the monarchy and widespread use of the death penalty.  He faces little pressure to change however, with the UK and other western countries all too ready to fawn over the prince in their desire to secure lucrative arms deals.  Astonishingly, the UK government was active behind the scenes in securing a place for Saudi on the UN’s Human Rights Council.

See also the Grant Liberty website.

 


Women in Iran at risk

As news spreads that Iran could be facing a second wave of coronavirus due to an increase in the number of cases, the health and safety of Nasrin, Yasaman and other imprisoned women’s rights activists remains at risk.  Now more than ever, we must increase the pressure on Iranian authorities to release these women immediately.

Our campaigning has helped secure the release of prisoners of conscience in Iran before.  Please can help us do it again.  Please watch and share our post, featuring Iranian-born actress and Amnesty Ambassador, Nazanin Boniadi who has campaigned with us since 2008 on the unjust conviction and treatment of Iranian youth, women and prisoners of conscience.

 


The women who campaigned for women to be able to drive in Saudi still in gaol

ACTION TODAY WEDNESDAY 24 JUNE

Next week marks two years since women in Saudi Arabia were finally granted the right to drive.

As part of his Vision 2030, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is working hard to be seen as the moderniser of Saudi Arabia, introducing a number of social reforms.

Meanwhile, thirteen Saudi women’s rights activists remain on trial for peacefully campaigning for the same reforms, including the right to drive.  Five of them are still behind bars – including Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada.

We’re asking our supporters to take action together this Wednesday 24 June – the day women were granted the right to drive in Saudi Arabia in 2018, while these women’s rights defenders were locked up in prison charged with, among other things, “promoting women’s rights”.

Please share this horn graphic on social media with the following message:

I stand with #Saudi women rights activists who fought for the right to drive. It’s shameful they were locked up for demanding equality. Join me & @AmnestyUK calling on @KingSalman to release them & drop all charges: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/beepforfreedom #BeepForFreedom CC @SaudiEmbassyUK

Thank you!


The New Forest Amnesty group is hosting a talk on 28 November and the details can be found below.  It is free.

New Forest Talk (pdf)


The Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, aims to ease the suffering of women in conflict areas.  Will action follow?

We have often posted items on this site concerning our support for, and arming of, the Saudi regime in its war in Yemen and the awful human toll that this has caused.  Thousands have died, cholera is at epidemic proportions and civil society has been catastrophically damaged.  A blockade is making matters worse.  The has been considerable evidence that UK arms have been used to attack civilian targets including schools, hospitals, weddings and funerals.  Yet we continue to aid the Saudis and the sale of weapons continues.  The Royal family is used to visit the regime and to welcome them here on a recent state visit.  The sale of weapons is so valuable that any concern at the destruction caused is effectively ignored.

In the context of the Yemen, as in many other conflicts, it is women and children who suffer often disproportionately.  The destruction of their community, the bombing of medical facilities and schools, the difficulty in acquiring food and clean water, all make life extremely difficult for them.  So it was interesting to read that the Defence Minister, Gavin Williamson, attended a meeting in London with representatives of countries experiencing conflict.  Countries included:  the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Ukraine, as well as several international action groups, were welcomed to discuss the issues faced in their countries, particularly by women.

It is noticeable that Yemen was not among them.

Mr Williamson said:

Conflict can have devastating effects for anyone caught in its path, but life can be particularly traumatic for women. They are subject to violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, and their calls for justice are often falling on deaf ears.

I am determined we do more to listen to those who are often not given a voice. It is only by understanding the situation faced by women and girls that we will be able to protect them. Ministry of Defence news story, 19 July 2018 [accessed 27 July]

It appears that most if not all the countries attending had UK-trained peace keepers deployed there.  The news story went on to claim:

The UK has already increased peacekeeping in Sudan and Somalia, has deployed four Military Gender and Protection Advisers to DRC and has established a UK centre of excellence to integrate guidelines on women, peace and security into its work.  It is also among the first countries to publish a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

The minister claims that he is determined to ‘do more to listen to those often not given a voice‘.  This raises the question of what happens when he is told it is your weapons which are destroying our lives.  What more does he need to be told?  There have been countless authenticated reports on the destruction our weapons (and those of USA and France) have caused in war zones like Yemen.  A Médecins sans Frontières report is another example among many.  Countless reports, evidence on the ground, news reports and footage, all graphically describe the terrible events in that country.

So the questions for Mr Williamson are – when you have read the reports and done your ‘listening’ what are you going to do?  Will you take steps to cease arming the Saudis with weapons they are using to cause such mayhem?  Will you bring home the RAF personnel who are involved in the conflict?  What in short will you do to ease the plight of women caught ‘in its path’ as you put it?  Or was this just an exercise in public relations which will have no tangible or beneficial effects on the lives of women in war zones?

Will you listen and do nothing?


If you live in the Salisbury area we would be pleased to welcome you to our group.

 


 

At its meeting on Thursday evening, the group decided that the profits from the stall which will take place in the market square in Salisbury tomorrow – Saturday – will go to this month’s Amnesty Urgent Action.  In the event we took £234 so over £460 will go the the African state.  Thanks to all those who helped on the stall and who bought things from us.

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Picture of the stall in Blue Boar Row, Salisbury

 

This action concerns the treatment of women in Burkina Faso and in neighbouring Sierra Leone.  They are subject to forced marriages often to men who are up to 50 years older than them.  Some can be married as young as 10.  They have no choice over these marriages nor when nor whether to get pregnant.  Some have babies at such a young age that their lives can be threatened or they experience lasting medical complications including incontinence.  Female Genital Mutilation is also common.

The Department for International Development DfID has agreed to match any funds raised by Amnesty for a programme of education in those countries.

So all funds will go to this cause (less the fee we have to pay Salisbury City Council for the pitch)

You can read further details if you wish

UPDATE: 23 June

Report sent to the Salisbury Journal and was published 23 June can be read here:

The funds raised by the Salisbury group of Amnesty International at their stall last Saturday are to be sent to Burkina Faso in Africa as part of a programme to help girls and women in those countries.
The group managed to raise over £234 and this will be doubled by the Department for International Development to make £468.  In Burkina Faso, whether you are a girl or a woman, you are prevented from making crucial decisions about marriage and whether or when to get pregnant.  Some girls as young as 10 are married and their partners can be as much as fifty years their senior.  Physical and sexual violence against women and girls is common and a particular concern is the large number of pregnancy complications and death among girls who bodies are not yet ready to bear children.
Amnesty in Burkina Faso is working with 5 of the shelters which house girls who have been subject to early forced marriage or female genital mutilation.
Andrew Hemming, the chair of the local group said “we are delighted to have contributed to this scheme and for the funds to go to such a good purpose.  The doubling of the monies raised by DfID makes it extremely worthwhile.”  Further details can be found on the group website

We reproduce a piece written by Fiona Bruce MP on the subject of violence against women and the denial of human rights in North Korea [DPRK]

As we mark International Women’s Day, I am minded to reflect upon the recent conference in the House of Commons hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, of which I am Co-Chair.  Titled Addressing Violence against Women and Girls in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the conference looked to a forgotten corner of Asia and a forgotten group of people: North Korea’s women and girls.

Notorious for its diplomatic belligerence, its disregard for international law and its nuclear programme, the DPRK (or North Korea) successfully concealed its widespread human rights violations from the world for decades.  An era of silence ended in 2014 when a United Nations Commission of Inquiry reported:

The gravity, scale and nature of [North Korea’s human rights] violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.

The severity of this UN statement is worth repeating: North Korea’s human rights situation has no parallel in the contemporary world.

Violence against women

As the international community slowly awakened from its slumber, it was no longer farfetched to recognise North Korea as the largest concentration camp the world had ever known or to rank the horrors of Yodok, Hoeryong, and Pukch’ang alongside Auschwitz, Belsen, and Dachau.  It became a fact that North Korean women have and continue to experience sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault and harassment in public and private spheres of life; human trafficking; forced abortions; slavery; sexual exploitation; psychological violence; religious and gender discrimination; and institutional and economic violence.

This violence in North Korea is neither occasional nor confined to certain quarters — it is endemic; it is state sanctioned; and it is perpetrated against women precisely because they are women.  In every sense of the term, North Korea’s abuses are ‘gendered’.

Why has the international community been silent on this issue?  We can look to many factors, but first and foremost is the discourse that surrounds North Korea.  Dominated by talk of nuclear weapons, regional security, engagement, unification, and humanitarian aid, there has been little room for North Korean women.  And, if truth be told, advocates have simply not been loud enough on this issue.

This year’s International Women’s Day marks an important phase for women’s rights.  Just months after the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, and fifteen years since the pioneering UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, this is the year that the world is developing the Agenda for Sustainable Development looking to 2030.  The Sustainable Development Goals include a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality and empowerment for women and girls.

North Korea’s female population should not be forgotten on March 8th.  Gendered violence and discrimination are destroying lives and ruining families in North Korea.  Women are enduring unimaginable suffering and the UK must use what engagement it has with the DPRK to push for real change.  The APPG’s conference on VAWG in North Korea brought together North Korean victims, exiled DPRK Government officials and experts on gender and the rights of women and girls.  Women’s and girls’ human rights is an area in which the UK exhibits international leadership. Let us draw from our knowledge and set out to challenge gendered violence in the DPRK just as we do in so many other countries in the world.

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, is Co-Chair of the APPG on North Korea jointly with Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP and Lord Alton of Liverpool.


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Video highlighting violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean

This is a must-see video produced in Venezuela by Amnesty which describes the range of attitudes and policies which need to change if violence against women is to cease.  No, it is not about women being beaten up but the wide range of policies concerning rape, reproductive rights and the treatment of ethnic groups which amount in some cases to torture and to the violation of human rights.  Only 2 minutes.

YouTube Video


Film focusing on ‘honour violence’ to be shown in London

Honor Diaries is the first film to break the silence on ‘honor violence’ against women and girls.  It features nine courageous women’s rights advocates, with connections to Muslim-majority societies, who are engaged in a dialogue about gender inequality.  These women, who have witnessed firsthand the hardships women endure, are profiled in their efforts to affect change, both in their communities and beyond.

The film gives a platform to exclusively female voices and seeks to expose the paralyzing political correctness that prevents many from identifying, understanding and addressing this international human rights disaster.  Freedom of movement, the right to education, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation are some of the systematic abuses explored in depth.

Spurred by the Arab Uprising, women who were once silent are starting to speak out about gender inequality and are bringing visibility to a long history of oppression. This project draws together leading women’s rights activists and provides a platform where their voices can be heard and serves as inspiration to motivate others to speak out.

Free tickets are available via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/honor-diaries-screening-and-qa-tickets-19997574283

When: Thursday, 28 January 2016 from 19:00 to 22:00 (GMT)
Where: Amnesty International UK – 25 New Inn Yard London EC2A 3EA GB

Please note this video contains images which will distress some people – viewer discretion is advised

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